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What about Halloween

Aug 27, 2008
Six hundred years before Jesus and before the Roman occupation, Celtic culture dominated the British Isles. The Celtic priests, the Druids, oversaw the "Summer's End" (in Gaelic, "Samhain") festival on the evening of the 31st of October, an ancient type of harvest festival mixed with spiritual elements as this was the one night a year when the dead and evil spirits were thought to have access to the world of the living.

People tried to protect themselves from attack by disguising themselves as witches, devils and ghosts, and carved grotesque faces in things like pumpkins, which they kept illuminated by candlelight, to ward off evil spirits. They also left out treats, like cakes, as a peace offering. When the Romans came to Britain (43AD) they added the traditions of their own harvest festival, "Pomona", to Samhain, such as bobbing for apples in water barrels and putting nuts in the fire to watch where they jump to. Some of these games were about divination, the prediction of future events.

Meanwhile, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in 30AD led to a great persecution of his followers, who spread their new "Christianity" into Asia Minor, Greece, and into the Roman Empire as they fled for their lives. Martyrs Days or Saints Days became common as believers chose to commemorate the execution of other Christians.

The martyrdom of some of the apostles was celebrated wherever there were Christians, but the martyrdom of lesser known Christians were usually observed only locally. In the mid eighth century Pope Gregory III announced that the 1st of November would be the "Feast of All Saints", also known as "All Saints' Day" or "All Hallows' Day" ("hallow" means saint or holy person), meaning that the martyrdom of all saints would from now on be celebrated on this one day, rather than having lots of different regional saints' days.

The aim was to encroach on, and take over from, the 31st of October festivities of Samhain, and All Hallows Day borrowed from this pagan festival by copying some of the traditions, namely dressing up -in this case as a saint, an angel or a devil- and having a parade. But Samhain was deeply ingrained in the culture and not so easily replaced. To step-up the competition, the church made the evening of the 31st of October itself another special day called "All Hallows Even" (evening). This is the origin of the name "Halloween", as the names All Hallows Even and Samhain (pronounced "sow-in" in Ireland , or "sow-een" in Wales) became merged together.

Because of it's Celtic origins, Halloween is only enthusiastically observed in the UK, Ireland, the USA and Canada, taken there by the Irish (who emigrated to America in their tens of thousands after the 1845 potato famine) and Scottish immigrants, and is growing in popularity in New Zealand and Australia.

The creation of All Hallows Day and All Hallows Even was a largely failed attempt to replace all-things ghoulish and creepy with a reverent day for commemorating martyred Christians, as, for the majority of people, Halloween is still about ghosts and witches. Although some evangelical Christians use it as an opportunity to commemorate the lives of Christians who made an impact on the world around them, evangelicals do not accept that the established church has any authority to choose which Christians will be remembered as extra-special and declared "Saints" and do not celebrate saints' days anyway.

Although evangelical Christians understand Halloween is not -as some horror movies make out- about satanic worship, neither do they tolerate it as a "harmless bit of fun." This is because Halloween revolves around actively promoting fear and occult practises such as divination.
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